Neo’s reposting of some of the best of Jessica’s piece continued yesterday with a reminder of the importance of leadership – which is apt for the final Sunday in the liturgical year which celebrates Christ the Universal King.
Jesus’ leadership during his earthly mission was one which contradicated the expectations of his followers and contemporaries. The Messiah was the one who would come and fix all things, and he would smite his enemies and he would restore all things – then the Children of Israel would come into the fullness of their inheritance; John and Andrew argued over which of them would sit on his right hand when that day came. They looked to the patterns of leadership with which they were familiar. But Jesus had already warned them not to imitate the Pharisees. He did not condemn them all – indeed his followers were expected to exceed them in holiness – but he did condemn any leadership which involved swaggering in a lordly fashion over others; we see that echoed very clearly in what St James says about the treatment of poor man and rich men. Jesus’ leadership is that of the servant of the servants of God.
Mankind is a fallen race. Those Protestants who wonder how a Church founded by Christ can have in it men who call themselves “Princes of the Church”, and who dress in fine attire, have, of course, the answer already, and it is one present in some of their own leaders with their mega churches and scandals about donations and mansions; all have sinned, there is none amongst us who is fully spiritually healthy. Lord Acton came to his famous conclusion that ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ from his study of history. Men who have sturggled hard to climb the ladder to power, rarely do so just to become the servant of others; the fight is hard, the cost (financial and personal) heavy, and some rewards are expected for these things. Men succumb easily to petty temptations. If these things were not so, there would be no need for us to have been redeemed.
But how far do Our Lord’s words apply to the leaders of this world? As Geoffrey reminded us this week, it is not sufficient to say that we must turn the other cheek when faced with an enemy such as ISIS. It is also not sufficient, however, just to utter strong words and follow them with bombing expeditions; we have been there, done that and reaped a version of the whirlwind. Leaders have a duty of care to their people, and in the situation in which we find ourselves, they are finding that the demands placed on them are not the ones they expected.
It is easy to be cynical about our leaders, not least because of their own cynicism about how to win our votes, but democracy, as Aristotle warned us two millennia ago, would always be open to the temptation of demagoguery. But Churchill was right when he said it was the worst of all systems – except for all the others. It is our last and best hope in this world. In naming Christ King, the Church, as ever, tries to frame him in ways in which we can understand. May that be a reminder to our leaders, political and spiritual, that there is someone to whom they will all have to answer on the Last Day. However hard we might find it, let us pray for our leaders – they need it, as do we.